It is remarkable how much you can squeeze into half an hour. The Good Book, the first production from Slung Low’s new project Leeds People’s Theatre, is a dystopian drama set on the streets of Beeston and Holbeck. It features three professional actors, more than 100 members of the local community, and it’s just 30 minutes long.
James Phillips’ story is set at an non-specified time in the future. A pre-title sequence tells us that a Queen called Bear has taken over Britain, while radical followers of Galahad oppose her reign. A pub fight – filmed in The Holbeck Working Men’s Club, Slung Low’s headquarters – makes their bitter enmity obvious from the off. Caught in the middle is our protagonist – Avalon – a young woman tasked by an imprisoned friend to rescue a book from Leeds’ besieged library.
The story, in truth, is extremely shaky – presumably an awkward attempt at observing the bipolarity of contemporary politics – and some of the design decisions (sword-clutching soldiers in St George’s Cross tunics, screaming protestors brandishing wine-glass Molotov cocktails) detract from the doom.
But Brett Chapman’s direction and Heather Fenoughty’s music combine to evoke an oppressive and intimate atmosphere in otherwise unremarkable streetscapes, and both Riana Duce and Angus Imrie supply strong performances as the apprehensive Avalon and her mysterious friend Geraint, as do the good people of south Leeds.
As a drama, The Good Book leaves lots to be desired. As an exercise in compact, community film-making, though, it is a welcome inspiration.
The film is available to watch online at www.slunglow.org/TGB from Friday May 1 at 12pm